Sightings on the dancefloor
have a bunch of stuff I want to write about from last weekend—and I’m not even sure I’ll be able to get to all of it—but I wanted to post this note on here before it slips my mind and the affective impact of all of it wears off.
I suspect that I underestimate the extent of my readership. Every once in a while, I meet someone who has been forwarded one of my blog posts through a mutual friend (when I arrived in Berlin for example, nearly all of Bob & Donna’s friends had read at least some of my writing or heard about it). Every time that happens, there’s a brief moment of scary-fun disorientation, where the pleasant surprise of being deemed worthy of reading (and forwarding) collides with the realization that the ever-important “first impression” happened without you—that is, it happened with your text / performance / product instead of with you. It’s sort of like getting caught with your pants down, but with an exhibitionist twist: you kinda like it, but you just wish you had thought to wear more fashionable underwear.
So recently, I’ve had a whole slew of these experiences, including one last night that really surprised me.
But let’s start from the beginning. When I posted the “draft profile” of Berghain and Panorama Bar a couple of weeks ago, my page views suddenly tripled. After a bit of searching through the blog-statistics on WordPress, I discover that Jon Berry at Kompakt somehow came across my posting and then posted a link to it on the Kompakt blog. (Note: Kompakt is a massively important record label based in Cologne that is associated with a particular flavor of tightly-focused but buoyant minimal house—sometimes dubbed “microhouse”—and techno.) Yay! This brought on a barrage of spam comments (thank you, Askimet spam filter), but it also brought well over 200 readers to my blog in about two days. It felt great to get a gesture of approval from an important record label that has been so central to the music scenes that I work in/on.
Within a couple days of publishing the post, I received comments from a pair of scholars working in my field (thanks, guys!), which also reminded me that what I publish here can also appear on the screens of colleagues, future employers, academic publishers, etc.
Since then, I’ve met several people through mutual friends who had read this same post. When I post something new on here, WordPress automatically publishes a link to the new post on Facebook, which my friends can read and comment on. They can also re-post the link on their pages or on the “walls” of other friends and/or “tag” them on it; I’m aware that this is a possibility, but I don’t actively imagine my writing being passed along like an interesting news article or a hilarious YouTube video. Something like that seems to have happened, though: nearly every time that I’m introduced to someone through a friend, the usual “what brings you to Berlin?” question leads to the recognition that s/he had read my profile post on another friend’s Facebook wall. In a couple of cases, the person posting the link wasn’t even a direct acquaintance of mine, but a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. Again, there was that combination of “Yay!” and “Hmm, the more I publish, the less control I have over the conditions of my self-presentation.” Thankfully, nobody seemed to hate my writing enough to throw their drink in my face—or at least they were too courteous for that sort of thing.
And then, last night at around 5pm (17h00) on the dancefloor of Panorama Bar, after more than 12 hours of straight partying, I feel a touch on my shoulder.
I turn around to see a young guy lean in and ask, “Are you Luis?”
(He was pronouncing my name like the French “Louis,” with a silent ‘s’, so it took me a moment to recognize my name)
“From Luis in Paris?”
“I love your blog!”
How on earth did someone I’ve never met recognize me in a crowd at Panorama Bar? I tried to ask him how he found me, but my question wasn’t clear and he ended up telling me how he found my blog. Apparently, he had done a few Google searches before his first trip to Berlin last summer, and he had stumbled across my old blog, Luis in Paris, which was at that time (summer 2009) full of about three years of reports on the techno scenes of Paris and Berlin. I never really figured out how he had recognized me at Panorama Bar (I’d like to remind you that this conversation happened at 5pm on Sunday…on a night that began on Saturday), but I imagine he recognized me from a photo on my blog that included my face, or maybe by clicking through my Flickr photostream. In any case, he had lots of nice things to say about my old blog and my writing style, encouraging me to keep on writing. I don’t want to sound too histrionic, but I was really floored by this encounter; there’s something wonderful and disorienting about having a total stranger come up to you and say nice things about the things you create. And in Panorama Bar at 5pm on a Sunday, no less!
(By the way, if you were at Panorama Bar last night and had this conversation with me, drop me a line and/or leave a comment!)
And so I get home from Panorama Bar at about 8pm Sunday night and I see a new comment on my most recent post about the complexities of getting into Berghain (and getting friends in). It’s a another lovely comment by a reader named Sarah, who had recently come across my blog and recognized some of her own experiences at the same club. This, following only hours after my random “sighting on the dancefloor,” kinda blew my mind.
I’m not sure why all of these moments of surprise recognition, random discovery, and broad readership-networks in action all clustered into the last couple of weeks, but it’s been amazing. It’s also encouraged me to get my ass into gear and write more stuff about these two last action-packed weeks.